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Truffle from Soria: the Spanish black diamond

IMG_4250The black truffle, or Tuber melanosporum , is a winter fungus appreciated in restaurants for its special aroma and flavor it brings to all kinds of dishes, bringing nuances that reflect the essence of the land and forest. Despite its scarcity and high price, the demand for truffle growing every day.

Soria is one of the three major Spanish producing provinces of black truffle, along with Huesca and Teruel. Has 1,700 hectares for planting, whose production accounts for over 30 % of the national market.

The quality of the truffle from Soria has transcended borders and much of the production is sold in England, Germany or United States. The experts emphasize that the altitude of the province and its climatic conditions give the black truffle and special aroma and remarkable texture over other truffles.

The rains this year and good early autumn temperatures have favored a campaign that could reach a total number of  5,000 kilos (11,000 pounds). Calculate the cost-effectiveness of the province is always difficult, because the market is not regulated.  the Truffle Soria Association estimate is around  $9 million.

The price per pound , which last year was around $680 , could lower this season , which runs from 1 December to mid- March. In fact, the first prices are handled are around $480 per pound.

Soria Truffle association continues to work to achieve a quality mark that distinguishes the Tuber melanosporum from Soria in the most important international markets.

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Great Spanish chefs as Pepe Rodríguez (El Bohio), Luis Alberto Lera ( Mesón El Labrador) , Óscar Perez and Pedro Mario (El Ermitaño), Víctor Martin (Trigo) or Mario Sandoval (Coque) , among others, exalt the special aroma of the black truffle from Soria and use it fresh in season to prepare their dishes. Even one of the most successful chefs, Martín Berasategui, says that Soria black truffle is “the Rolls Royce of truffles from Spain .”

One of the chefs who has worked and extolled the great potential of the black truffle from Soria is Óscar García, from his restaurant Baluarte. The Academy of Gastronomy and Food of Castilla y León recognized their work recently. IMG_4258

The menu of the day dedicated to the black truffle from Soria included the following courses:

– Our trufal
– Seasonal vegetables with truffle, prawn and mushroom soup
-Potato – truffle with candied rib
-Squid ragout, truffles, chestnuts and walnuts
-Truffled – egg
– Octopus , cabbage, truffle and dashi soup
– Bresse Pigeon with rice and mushrooms
– Ice cream with chocolate truffle

The black truffle can praise all kinds of dishes . It can be taken raw laminated or can be added to a stew or soup. It is also used for flavoring eggs , oils and cheeses.

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Healthy food, healthy environment

Elena Fernandez

LiveWell for LIFE , a WWF and Friends of Europe project, has released a milestone report: Adopting Healthy, Sustainable Diets: Key opportunities and barriers,  a three-year project closely examining the relationship between food, health and the environment, This study, a continuation of the research the Rowett Institute did with WWF-UK in 2010-11, has identified some of the most important factors that explain why governments are not supporting sustainable diets, why food companies are discouraged from promoting them and why consumers are slow to adopt them.

  Tony Long, director office, thinks that “many consumers, businesses and governments have a rather odd relationship with our food system which can be summed up as out of sight, out of mind”. People, and society as a whole, often prefer to ignore the impact that our consumption is having on the environment and our health”.

But, why is the way we eat so important? Today the average European consumes almost 3,500 calories a day, 25% more than the daily recommended level and eats approximately  70% more protein, mostly animal, than recommended. I have the feeling that these figures are not more optimistic in the US.

“Obesity in Europe is at an all-time high and rising, causing heart diseases, strokes, diabetes and 10-13% of all deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It has become one of the biggest health challenges of our time, costing our governments billions of euros in health bills,” explains Long.

But WWF´s report shows a new point of view to the debate. The way we eat doesn’t only affect our health; it affects our environment as well. One of the clearest impacts of our food addiction is the destruction of forested areas for agricultural produce.

This puts a heavy toll on our global CO2 output. Between 1990 and 2008 Europe imported and consumed about 9 million hectares of newly deforested land, roughly three times the size of Belgium, and all this despite the fact that we throw away over one-third of the food we produce.

The good news highlighted by the report is that policy makers are starting to wake up to the idea of supporting sustainable diets.  This is partly because old taboos warning politicians against interfering in what people should eat or drink, a taboo reinforced by the agri-foods industry,  are breaking down in the face of rapidly mounting health costs.

Business and industry need to accept its role and its responsibility in developing sustainable diets. Not only do they have a duty to offer sustainable products to consumers but they also need to use their marketing might to create a market for such products.

The report concludes that the final consumer has a great responsibility in his food choices too. All studies and surveys show a big gap between what people feel and say, and what they do related to Healthy food choices.

Lake Dewey from Naches Loop

Lake Dewey from Naches Loop

A purple touch in your Kitchen… and beyond

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Elena Fernandez

Two weeks ago I crossed Puget Sound and Hood Canal with my family to spend a weekend in Olympic peninsula to catch the last sun rays before rain goes back. Anyway I saw more rain than sun but that´s what makes this place so special.

I wanted to see the end of lavender season at Sequim and to look up into its culinary properties. A few things are more Mediterranean than lavender!

I picked Mike Reichner´s Purple Haze Lavender Farm to visit because in its on line shop I saw a wide array of culinary products. And I was not wrong. Mike is one of the fathers of lavender crops not only in Washington State but in the US. He began to cultivate lavender in 1995 after attending a conference about commercial opportunities for herbs cultivation. “I remember I was the only man,” he jokes.

Sunny Sequim, protected by the Olympic Mountain  rain shadow, and with less than 20 inches of rain per year, has similar weather conditions as the French region of Provence. So Mike thought  it would be worth to take a chance.

Today,  more than 36 growers cultivate lavender in the valley, and an annual festival brings them all together to share their products with visitors. But Purple Haze Lavender Farm keeps on being the pioneer in offering new and innovative products extracted from his 12 acre organic crops.

DSC_0027The visitor will find more than 30 lavender varieties and 15.000 plants in Purple Haze Farm apart from lavender lemonade and ice cream. I tried the lemonade and it was amazing! (see photo) And the smell was… so relaxing! But if you look closer, Mike will show you how every variety has its own characteristics. “For culinary uses you need to pick English lavender, sweeter and more subtle,” he explains. “If you use stronger varieties the flavor would overwhelm the food”.

“The culinary products were the most risky option because people are only used to lavender properties in the Medical and Beauty fields,” says Mike. “I decided to begin with something not to innovative mixing lavender and Herbs de Provence”. Then the best seller came along: the salad dressing.

I know I´m a bit traditional and not too fond in tossing salads with something different from olive oil and vinegar, so I opted for the herbs mix. But  any good foodie find mustard, honey, chocolate and tea, among many products and a recipe brochure too to bring the magic of lavender  home.

I asked Mike If he had worked with other local partners: “Of course, Molly Moon makes its icecream with lavender from our farm, and we work with Cashmere Cider Mill to handcraft our lavender cider”

The farm is open from early May to Labor Day but  now that lavender season is nearly finished you could find Purple Haze products on line and in their Sequim Downtown shop all year round.